When international leaders gathered at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP19) in Warsaw, Poland earlier this month to negotiate and develop policies and procedures to address climate change, it seemed the perfect time to explore the connection between the issues of reproductive health and environmental degradation […]. Typically treated as separate fields of work, we at GOJoven believe that environmental degradation (ED) and lack of access to reproductive health (RH) education and services are actually interwoven issues that negatively impact each other and the health and well-being of the most marginalized populations in developing countries, including women, girls, youth and adolescents, and indigenous, poor and rural peoples.
Fellows of PHI’s GOJoven program are seeing firsthand how rapid population growth and lack of reproductive health are impacting the environments in their local communities. In her essay “Cancun: A Lost Paradise”, part of a larger anthology titled “A Pivotal Moment: Population, Justice & the Environmental Challenge”, Adriana Varillas, a journalist and GOJoven fellow from Mexico, explains that the consequence of rapid population growth in Cancun is the destruction of natural resources to make way for development to respond to increased tourism and a growing population. Saúl Paau Maaz, a GOJoven fellow from Guatemala, tells a similar story to Varillas in an article on the impacts of population growth on his native Petén. According to Maaz, multinational companies and sprawling human settlements are destroying the forests. He calls the jungle where he was born a “disaster area” that’s been “plundered and exploited”, that every year 100 to 150 square miles of forest are lost.
In both Cancun and Petén, Varillas and Maaz note that the local population lacks access to sexual education and resources to plan their pregnancies and the use of condoms and other contraceptive methods are still stigmatized. And as the population grows, so does the use of natural resources. And although population growth in these countries is not responsible for climate change, local population growth due to lack of access to sexual and reproductive health education and services can negatively affect the population’s ability to adapt to climate change or to mitigate it’s effects.
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